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The internet has been called many things, from “democracy’s greatest tool” to the “greatest place for free speech”. However, when you Google “internet’s greatest” and it auto-completes to “invention of all time”, netizens know what the internet is truly great at — it’s also a great waster of time.
While social networks, celebrity gossip sites or — if you feel yourself to be a little more cerebrally gifted — news parody sites are arguably the greatest sources of countless man-hours lost to web activity, the truth is that memes take up a fair amount of our time.
The meaning of meme on Know Your Meme refers to memes as “…cultural ideas, symbols or practices transmitted from one mind to another…”
Below are seven memes that captured our imagination in this era of great procrastination.
The Dancing Baby
Known as “Baby Cha-Cha”, “Oogachaka baby” or far more simply as “The Dancing Baby”, years before most of us found our way on the web — we had seen this. Released as a sample of what a 3D rendering product could do in 1996, The Dancing Baby enchanted and entranced us, and was remixed into various other versions with other songs. For lovers of pop culture, The Dancing Baby will always be connected to mid-90s hit TV show “Ally McBeal”, where the baby would appear and dance before the main character as a reminder of her ticking biological clock. This could be classified as the first internet meme.
All Your Base Are Belong To Us
This is a classic example of “engrish” or a bad translation from Japanese to English. “All Your Base Are Belong To Us” was taken from the opening sequence of the European version of the Sony MegaDrive game “Zero Wing”. In no way was “All Your Base Are Belong To Us,” the only engrish in the game. Along with this iconic phrase, there were other priceless examples such as “somebody set up us the bomb”, and “tke off every Zig for great justice”. However, what turned “all your base are belong to us” into “All Your Base Are Belong To Us” was part-time deejay Jeffrey Ray Roberts, who turned the phrase into a brilliant or annoying (so watch the video at your own risk) dance song. From there, what had been a little joke exploded beyond the web into the rest of pop culture, with other remixes, T shirts and use as a general catchphrase.
If you haven’t taken part in a flash-mob after an invite via the web, you can’t really think of yourself as a netizen. The rules are simple: You hear about “it”, you go there and do whatever “it” is, and then you leave. According to a CNN report on the new “craze” back in its infancy in 2003, it was started by somebody named Bill who got an email calling on people to congregate and meet at shopping mall in downtown Manhattan.
After the initial attempt failed in June 2003 “over 100 people assembled in the home furnishings department of Macy’s department store. As instructed, the participants consulted bemused sales assistants about purchasing a ‘love rug’ for their ‘suburban commune'”, and thus the first flash-mob happened. Of course since then the “craze” has developed into even more elaborate staged commercial events. Here’s a bemused US news-report from 2003 on “one of those little internet things”.
In late 2004 what was definitely one the strangest of internet memes — ian inexplicable craze for pictures of cats, with so-called humorous captions in a form of broken English known as lolspeak — took the web by storm. It is said that the meme began on 4chan, which even its founder warned was not a place to go poking around without knowing what you’re getting into.
In 2007 the home for this strange meme — its name taken from arguably the most famous LOLcat, “I can has cheez burger” — was launched. To this day, a search by Google’s Insight for Search shows that “lolcat” still scores a 94 on its scale of 0 – 100, for how much something is searched.
Chuck Norris Facts
“Chuck Norris counted to infinity – twice”. These and many more facts which you undoubtedly know began floating around the web in early 2006. In 2004 then NBC late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien — who himself became a meme of sorts — began to randomly play clips from Norris’s show, “Walker Texas Ranger”.
However, it was only in 2005 that Ian Spector, a student at Brown University, created the first site devoted to Chuck Norris Facts. Norris himself was a great sport about the whole thing, writing on his site in 2006 that he wasn’t “quite sure what to make of it” as he was “more a student of the Wild West than the wild world of the internet”. However, he neither took offence nor took “these things too seriously”. Since then these facts about “Chuck” have become one with the internet.
In what was one of my favourite memes, 2007’s “Rickrolling” became the greatest — and at times most irritating — game to play. Another meme developed on 4Chan, developed as a spin off of “duckrolling”, both duck, and its more popular decendent, RickRolling were a classic case of bait and switch. A link would be sent to you, or you would see a link with an interesting topic. However when you clicked on it, it directed you to Rick’s smash-hit 1987 single “Never Gonna Give You Up”. One of the earliest known “Never Gonna Give You Up” videos was uploaded to YouTube on May 15th, 2007 and has more than 48-million views online.
“This item has wolves on it which makes it intrinsically sweet and worth 5 stars by itself, but once I tried it on, that’s when the magic happened. After checking to ensure that the shirt would properly cover my girth, I walked from my trailer to Wal-mart with the shirt on and was immediately approached by women.”
In that way things on the web somehow do, the comment went viral — along with the thousands of others that followed it. Writing on the phenomenon, the New York Times called it “a new shared literary art form”. From there it became part of popular culture, with the shirt appearing on the US version of the comedy show, “The Office”, and even President Barack Obama wore one. This was a parody video singing the comments on the site to the theme of Disney’s “Pocahontas” — another example of why the internet is the greatest invention of all time.